morgan county high school teacher w mask

Lenae Rose, last year’s MCHS teacher of the year, teaches her chorus and drama class Tuesday at Morgan County High School.

A total of 109 confirmed COVID cases have been reported in Morgan County Schools, with nearly 30 percent of the student population exposed and/or quarantined after a little more than just two weeks of classes resuming.

“Unfortunately, COVID is a part of our world and the backdrop we have to navigate as we educate our children. We are certainly seeing increased cases in our system and our county as this latest wave and variant impacts us,” said Dr. Virgil Cole, superintendent of Morgan County Schools. “This is similar to the situation we dealt with last year, especially in August and January. Our staff and students have been great and are adjusting to our ramped up mitigation. Things can change, and we will adjust accordingly. That said, we will continue to use a prudent and realistic approach, along with patience and kindness, and we will get through this latest surge.”

As of Monday, Aug. 16, The Morgan County School System reported 22 new COVID cases for the day among students, after closing out the second week of school with a total of 87 confirmed COVID cases, four among school staff members, and 83 among students. More than 1,000 students, nearly 30 percent of all Morgan County students across four schools, have been deemed close contacts for exposure, some of whom are in quarantine.

The rising COVID cases led school officials to reinstate coronavirus mitigation practices just seven days into the school new year.

On Wednesday, Aug. 11, The Morgan County Charter School System called for mask-wearing among students and school staff, social distancing, and other preventative policies designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, “effective immediately.”

“The Morgan County Charter School System considers the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members as the highest priority. With the spread rate increasing in our community and in our schools, we plan to implement enhanced mitigation strategies effective immediately,” said a release from the school system.

“We are going to temporarily restrict non-essential visitors, limit field trips, encourage students and staff to wear a mask, reduce large group gatherings, and socially distance to the extent possible. Our adherence to these guidelines allowed us to remain in-person throughout the school year last year where many school systems were not so fortunate. We are confident that we can successfully navigate through these challenging times.”

According to numbers posted by the Morgan County Charter School System, the first week of school saw a total of 20 students who tested positive for COVID-19, and a total of 236 students were “identified as close contacts/quarantined due to exposure at school, which is about 7 percent of the student population. The second week, half of which included reinstated precautions, yielded 67 confirmed COVID cases, with 645 close contact exposures among students, a total of 19.36 percent of the entire student population.

However, the school system will not mandate masks to be worn, but will “strongly encourage” it. Students and staff members exposed to COVID will still be given the option to quarantine as long as they remain symptom-free.

“Students who are identified as close contacts at school but remain symptom-free will not be required to quarantine but may opt to do so. Close contacts in the same household will be required to quarantine. It is critically important that families adhere to the recommended mitigation strategies and monitor for symptoms, “ said a release from the school system.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued a recommendation for universal masking in schools in light of the highly-contagious Delta variant currently sweeping across the country.

“CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place,” said a press release from the CDC.

The CDC’s recommendation came on the heels of a similar recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in mid-July. The organization also issued a recommendation for masks in schools for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccinations.

“The AAP believes that, at this point in the pandemic, given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up, that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in all circumstances,” said a release from the AAP.

The school system has pledged to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, seeking guidance from local and state health officials.

“As we progress throughout the school year, we will continue to closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 and adjust accordingly,” said a release from the school system. “These practices are subject to change based on spread rates and guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and our local medical professionals.”

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